Irish Water, Ireland’s national water utility responsible for providing and developing water and wastewater services throughout Ireland has welcomed the latest EPA Bathing Water Quality Report, published today.

This report on water quality monitored during the 2014 Bathing Water Season, reflects the many issues which can contaminate beach areas. This includes direct sewage discharge, diluted sewage discharge from overflows in wet weather as well as contaminated agricultural and other catchment runoff. The “failing” beaches in many instances relate to sewage discharges where the infrastructure is inadequate. The problem again highlights how years of under investment in providing adequate wastewater collection and treatment at key locations has affected nearby bathing waters. This report is being published as Irish Water is focussed on addressing one of its major challenges, that 44 towns around the country that have no waste water treatment at all.

Today’s report published by the EPA, highlights the need for a national water utility that can strategically approach the obvious deficits in our wastewater treatment infrastructure”, said Jerry Grant Head of Asset Management at IW. “Irish Water will raise funding and make investment where it is needed most to deal with this problem thereby protecting the environment and allowing for growth. It is not acceptable in a modern economy that so many of our towns are discharging raw sewage directly into the environment. It is unactable that so many of our waste water treatment plants fail to regularly operate to environmental standards”, Jerry Grant said.

We are in the process of billing our 1.5 million customers for the first time for water supply and wastewater services,” Jerry Grant explained. “Customer revenue will be invested to improve wastewater treatment capacity and effluent discharge standards across the entire network but in particular where the complete lack of treatment is impacting the local environment and the local economy.” “However, we need to invest billions into our water infrastructure and this can not be raised from customers alone”, he said. “The decades of underinvestment that led to the current situation have proven that the Government alone could not fund the scale of improvements now needed. The utility model, under which Irish Water has been set up and will operate, allows us to borrow money from capital markets and invest it in essential infrastructure improvements. This gives us the best chance of ensuring that we can protect our environment and provide for sustainable long term economic growth”, Jerry Grant said.

The bathing waters which have been classified as ‘Poor’ in the EPA’s bathing water report include six coastal and one inland location. These include Front Strand Beach, Youghal, Co. Cork, South Beach, Rush, Co. Dublin, Ballyloughane Beach, Galway City, Clifden Beach, Co. Galway, Ardmore Beach, Waterford, Lilliput, Lough Ennel, Co. Westmeath and Duncannon, Co. Wexford. Irish Water projects are already underway to bring these sites up to the required standards as soon as possible.

Some of these projects are expected to be completed as early as this Summer, and other works are being progressed this year, but could not be taken into account for the EPA report. Irish Water is also contributing to the preparation of the Bathing Water Management Plans and the implementation of appropriate measures to protect bathing water standards in Ireland. An example of this is the Front Strand Beach, Youghal which is 90% complete with the main construction delayed due to a road collapse. We must record, also, that significant progress has been made in improving quality of bathing waters around Ireland and the overall status is generally good.

Commenting, Irish Water's Jerry Grant said “Notwithstanding the information provided in today’s EPA report and the firm commitment of Irish Water to upgrade & operate our wastewater treatment plants so that they are contributing to bringing water quality at all bathing beaches to the required standards, it is worth acknowledging that Irish bathing waters continue to be among the best in northern Europe. Maintaining these high water quality standards is dependent on the successful operation of wastewater treatment into plants and networks right around our coast and ensuring the long term capacity of these plants is secured the future”.

Cork, Dublin, Galway, Waterford, Wexford

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